I am sure that many of you are wondering what uterine prolapse is (like I was when I saw it for my fellowship application). Here you will get a glimpse into what uterine prolapse is and how it impacts the lives of Nepali women.
The descent or herniation of the pelvic organ, uterus, rectum or bladder into the vagina (Amnesty International, 2014); when the muscles (levator ani muscles/ pelvic floor) around the uterus weaken the and the uterus moves into the vagina.
Normal uterus position. Prolapsed uterus position.
Uterine: relating to the uterus (the female organ that develops eggs) or womb (Merriam-Webster)
Prolapse: out of place (Merriam-Webster)
Is Uterine Prolapse Treatable?
Yes. There are 4 stages of uterine prolapse and ways to treat each stage.
Stage 1: the uterus is in the upper half of the vagina; muscle strengthening exercise can prevent continued muscle weakness
Stage 2: the uterus is at the opening of the vagina; a ring pessary is placed into the vagina to keep the uterus in place and support pelvic organs
Stage 3 & 4: uterus protrudes or is completely out of the vagina; pelvic floor repair surgery is done to tighten vagina walls or a hysterectomy is completed to remove the uterus.
Do women die from this?
NO! But it still affects women’s DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Year) and in Nepal, many women are abused due to their condition.
Young childbearing age
Strain on pelvic muscles from obesity, heavy object lifting, constipation, or persistent coughing
High number of births and low periods between
Prolonged difficult labor Malnutrition
Pushing down on the abdomen during labor
*The causes in italics are common among Nepali Women*
Uterus protruding from the vagina (severe cases); sometimes ulcers on the prolapsed uterus
BackacheDifficulty carrying out daily tasks, walking, sitting, lifting objects
Difficulty urinating or defecating
Sexual intercourse discomfort or difficulty
Discharge and strong odder from the vagina
Social Stigma/ Shame: Women avoid treatment because of fear that family and/or community members will hate and isolate them. Women have also experienced physical and emotional abuse.
Cultural Practices: Men have the authority to decide if a woman can seek health care in certain caste groups and communities. Women are in charge of heavy manual labor to sustain household income. Women are deemed useless if they are not able to bare children and work.
Lack of Health Care Access: Healthcare clinics are not available in every region of Nepal. For some, the trip to a health clinic or hospital is too expensive. The trip and treatment would also require the women to take off work which reduces the household income.
What is being done in Nepal?
The Nepali government mainly focuses on the treatment of uterine prolapse. One way they ensure treatment is provided is through prolapse screening camps where treatment is given to women diagnosed with uterine prolapse. Monitoring of uterine prolapse is lacking, however. Because of the social barriers for women to receive care uterine prolapse has been categorized as a human rights issue in Nepal. Little has been done to address this human right violation.